that is the question. I’ve been asked by the hospital if I want to make a formal complaint regarding my Mum’s treatment. As usual after a hospital stay I feel exhuasted, totally drained and the very last thing I want to think about is hospital. Shudder. I also know that if nobody complains nothing will change….sigh. I probably will then.
The process of complaining is not without it’s problems though and Mum has been punished in the past, I believe, because I have complained.
Mum has a Truecall telephone system. You may have seen it featured on Dragon’s Den a few years ago. It’s a call blocking system to keep away cold and spam callers and it is worth its weight in gold. Mum has the tightest security which means people on her ‘trusted’ list go straight through to her completely oblivious of any security but anyone else gets a recorded message telling them to ring me. If Mum makes a call the number she calls is immediately added to her trusted caller’s list. It works so invisibly well that I’m always suprised when I log into her online call log to see how many PIP, and ‘you’ve had an accident recently’ callers tried and failed to get through. If you’re looking after someone vulnerable it’s worth splashing out the £100 it costs. What I didn’t realise when I installed it is that it has another benefit that wasn’t obvious immediately.
As I mentioned it has an online call log. Most home care agencies have a telephone logging system and the carer rings a freephone number from the client’s home phone to log when they arrive and leave. With a Truecall system you can see exactly when that happens which proved to be interesting when Mum used the services of a very well known care agency in 2014.
Even though Mum said she felt rushed and the carer’s were always telling her to hurry up I noticed on the telephone call log that the carer’s were not staying for their allotted (and paid for by social services) time. The 30 minute lunchtime call was never that long and on many occasions lasted for less than 10 minutes. I was being told that Mum was taking too long and yet they were cutting the time of the calls down to get in and out as quickly as possible. So I complained. First of all I was questioned – how did I know? Then they explained that if they could get the call done more quickly that was acceptable. I presumed that they didn’t inform social services and still took the original payment. If, however, Mum’s call went over by even a couple of minutes they complained and Mum would hear about how the staff needed to get to their next call and to hurry up! It didn’t seem right. After I mentioned that I was able to see how long the calls lasted I noticed that the time of her calls increased, more or less, back to the correct times, but they weren’t happy with me!
Shortly after this Mum got gastroentiris, suffering chronic diahorrea. She became upset and embarrassed because the care staff seemed to be blaming her for the mess they had to clean up. Couldn’t she wait? In the end Mum pressed her alarm button, paramedics were called and she was taken into hospital. I believe she pressed the alarm to get away from the ‘blame game’.
Mum was fit to be discharged after 11 days but when the social worker rang the agency to restart the package they refused to take her back. They said they didn’t have capacity, although their contract with social services states that they should hold a place for 14 days when a client goes into hospital. When I contacted them about breaking their contract they changed tack and said that they couldn’t take Mum back because there was not one single carer on their staff who would work with her because she was ‘difficult’. Apparently 15 carers had all complained about her, but, strangely, only after she’d been admitted to hospital. These issues had not been flagged to me nor was there any indication of them in the log books filled in daily and left at Mum’s house. Unless I put secret cameras in Mum’s house (and I have considered it) there was no way to definitively prove their accusations were false. I asked to see documentation with dates and times of these alleged incidents but none were forthcoming. They were adamant they wouldn’t take Mum back and it seemed we had no recourse whatsoever. So I I wrote to the CEO of the company detailing everything that had happened. He said he would look into it and several days later they agreed to take Mum back.
The care agency restarted the package and the agency manager, Mum’s social worker, Mum and I had a meeting. We were told the agency were taking her back on the strict understanding that her ‘behaviour’ improved. I asked for examples of her ‘bad’ behaviour and the manager was vague, I asked again to see the documented ‘incidents’ and she waved a hand…’Oh they’re back at the office, I didn’t bring them’. She said that Mum was on 2 weeks probation, that her behaviour would be monitored and documented on a daily basis and we would meet again after 2 weeks to discuss the report.
Two weeks later. Did I mention that I don’t drive and my long suffering husband drives me to meetings and then finds something to do while I’m attending them? So we get over to my Mum’s, my husband dutifully disappears and I wait for the other attendees. Mum said everything had been fine but I was nervous to find out what the care agency was going to say and if we had to start over again with a new package of care. The social worker arrived and we had a cup of tea, half an hour went by with no sign of the care agency. The social worker made a call. Oh sorry, they’ve forgotten about it, but everything is okay so there is no need for a meeting. WT actual F?? Seriously? Yep. It had gone from an extremely serious issue two weeks ago to now being so insignificant it didn’t even warrant turning up for the follow up meeting. At this stage I felt like they were playing mind games. Of course, Mum was completely bemused by all this fuss because she thought she’d behaved the same all the time and didn’t do anything wrong in the first place. The social worker was ‘a bit cross’ but she said that often care agencies don’t turn up to meetings. I can only assume that demand for care agencies is MUCH more than supply for them to have this degree of power.
There is an end to this story and the agency were always determined to get rid of Mum. I know at a local level they were extremely angry that I had involved their CEO and their ruling was overturned. In the end they gave notice of termination of Mum’s contract at a review meeting. And the reason? The said that Mum had asked one of their carers if she’d put on weight. Seriously. She’d been upset and they have to protect their worker’s feelings so they were dumping Mum. Mum’s social worker was not impressed and said she would be reporting them to the Commissioning Team (I believe they are the organisation within the council who hands out contracts to care agencies). I’m not sure how much, if any, difference that made.
Mum was allocated a new care agency. She was with them for about 6 months (losing the contract only when she went into hospital again) and there was not one complaint about her, not even a hint.
From my point of view I believe Mum lost the first agency because I complained that they weren’t keeping to their times and they were looking for a way to get rid of her from then onwards. I’m sure it’s much easier to look after elderly people who don’t have anyone to poke their noses in and discover what’s really going on.